Don’t forget: The city of Houston will honor the Coogs Monday at TDECU Stadium

via @uhcougarfb

New Houston mayor Sylvester Turner is honoring the Cougars for their epic 2015 football season and Peach Bowl win Monday at TDECU Stadium at 6pm. The event will take place at Legends Plaza, located at gate 1 of TDECU’s northeast corner. Afterwords Coog fans are invited to Hofheinz Pavilion to watch the Coogs take on the #8 ranked SMU Mustangs at 7pm. More event details here!

New student housing near campus to open in Fall 2017


A new housing community for University of Houston (and possibly TSU) students called The Gateway on Cullen will be soon under development off of Cullen Boulevard within walking distance of campus on the other side of I-45. From the official press release:

The 7.7-acre property will consist of 531 beds including one-, two-, four-, and five-bedroom apartments and townhouses, along with a resort-style pool, volleyball court, an 8,000 SF clubhouse, full-fitness and cardio center and private study rooms. Unlike previous off-campus housing and the current on-campus housing stock, the majority of the units at The Gateway on Cullen will be in two-level, townhome configurations upwards of 1,900 square feet. Each fully furnished unit will feature vinyl wood plank flooring, granite countertops, queen sized beds, 50-inch flat screen TVs, stainless steel appliances and full-sized washer and dryers.

The location of the housing development will be across the street from a grocery anchored retail center which will be build where the former Fingers Warehouse is located.

More pics (click to embiggen):

Looks like they’ll have a ton of parking

For those curious about the location of the housing in relation with the university, I made this brief map:

Blue is the proposed grocery & retail center. Red is the proposed housing development. (click to embiggen)

Essentially it will be located on Cullen on the other side of 45. It looks like the developers are imagining that students living in the building will walk (or bike) to class. Hopefully they’ll work with the city on improving lighting and infrastructure under the 45 bridge. Other than that, it looks like it will be an awesome development in an area that greatly needs it and it’s a lot closer to campus than it looks at first glance. Also, it’s always good to get more students living close to campus.

More info in the official press release here

Houston linebacker Elandon Roberts highlight video

via Philly.com

Houston linebacker Elandon Roberts looks to be drafted by an NFL team in this April’s draft and video production group Lakes Creates put together an excellent highlight video of Roberts. Check out the video below and then read more about his draft prospects here:

Houston DC Todd Orlando turns down chance to coach at Wisconsin, his alma mater, to remain at UH

via Houston Athletics

Houston defensive coordinator Todd Orlando has reportedly turned down the chance to join his alma mater, the Wisconsin Badgers, in the same position. This is a huge win for Herman and the Coogs!

Throwback Thursday: Akeem Olajuwon posing on the UH campus in 1983

via @si_vault

The Sports Illustrated Vault Twitter account released the above photo of University of Houston and Houston Rockets legend Akeem Olajuwon on the UH campus in September 1983 (he changed his name’s spelling to Hakeem in 1991). Anyone know where the photo was taken? Is this up at PGH or one of the (secret) balconies at the Moody Towers?

Innovation in college football starts at the high school level

Kevin Kelley. via Pulaski Academy

Fans of the Houston Cougars football team are no strangers to watching innovative football happen here before the rest of the country catches on.

Legendary coach Bill Yeoman (coached at UH from 1962-86) pioneered the Veer offense followed by Jack Pardee (1987-89) and John Jenkins (1990-92) coordinating the high octane Run and Shoot offense. Then a legendary Texas high school coach named Art Briles (2003-07) came to Houston and brought with him spread offense he learned in Stephenville, Texas combined with concepts he picked up after a stint as an assistant at Texas Tech. The Air Raid offense continued under Kevin Sumlin (2008-11) and the Cougars continued to rack up the wins while helping change the college football landscape in the process. New coach Tom Herman has continued to innovate with his smashmouth spread concepts he honed under Urban Meyer at Ohio State.

Given all of this illustrious history of innovation we have here at UH, I love it when I learn about new concepts other coaches across the country are utilizing to win games. A high school coach named Kevin Kelley at Pulaski Academy in Arkansas is cranking up his coaching style to eleven by never punting on forth down and kicking on-side every kickoff. Talk about cojónes!

So much of the innovation we see on Saturdays in college and Sundays in the NFL originates on Friday nights at many high school programs across the country. As I mentioned earlier, it’s where Art Briles (now at Baylor) first became a legend and where other coaches like Chad Morris (SMU), David Beaty (Kansas), Mike Jinks (Bowling Green), Philip Montgomery (Tulsa), Gus Malzahn (Auburn), and Todd Graham (Arizona State) also made a name for themselves. Keep an eye on Houston tight end and fullbacks coach Corby Meekins, formerly coach of Houston Westfield High School, to be another fast rising coach in the profession.

It you want to know what types of innovative play calling or what coaches will soon be on the rise on Saturdays, just keep watching the innovative coaches in high school football.

More on Coach Meekins here.

Becoming a Cougar Doll: An inside look at the audition process

via Cougar Dolls

The sequins and red boots stand out from the top level of TDECU stadium. The official dance team of the University of Houston, the Cougar Dolls, dedicate hours of time to physically and mentally train in addition to a full course load to serve as ambassadors to the University of Houston. Earning the uniform takes two full days of hard work to prove these girls have what it takes to keep a crowd alive at football games and basketball games alike. Below is a glimpse of the audition process.

Auditions are held in May, meaning the majority of dancers auditioning are doing so while still attending high school. Day one begins with auditioning dancers completing an application. Everything from GPA to academic and dance achievements are included to give the judges an idea of a dancer’s qualifications. Becoming a Doll requires a strong academic background, as dancers are required to maintain a specific GPA in order to participate in games and events.

Dancers are judged on a wide range of technical skills including kicks, turns, splits, leaps and more, which are incorporated into dances throughout the year. Separate pom and a combination of hip hop and jazz routines are typically taught to show diversity in dance style. New dancers are often auditioned with both other new dancers and returning Dolls to see how awareness changes and if their style adapts to experienced Dolls. Call backs are often requested to test stamina and see if a dancer is ready to perform, even unexpectedly with little notice.

One of the most important elements of auditions is the interview process. Potential Dolls are asked a series of questions by all judges to evaluate a dancer’s priorities and dedication to academics and a demanding practice schedule. A second day asks a portion of the dancers back to perform all skills and dances learned before the final team is selected.

This is just a glimpse into the making of the Cougars who perform at games, volunteer at community service events and represent the University of Houston year-round. To keep up with the Dolls, like them on Facebook and Twitter.

via Cougar Dolls

UH alum Wade Phillips coaches the NFL’s #1 ranked defense. Now he looks to win his first Super Bowl.

via Houston Athletics

Wade Phillips was a three year starter at linebacker for the Houston Cougars from 1966–68. The son of the late Bum Phillips who coached the Houston Oilers, the younger Phillips got his start in the coaching profession as a graduate assistant to legendary Houston Cougars coach Bill Yeoman 1969.

Phillips now serves as defensive coordinator for the AFC champion Denver Broncos who lead the NFL in total defense. While Phillips has never won a Super Bowl, he hopes his defense is good enough to slow down Cam Newton and the high-octane Carolina Panthers attack.

More from ESPN here.

Herman named marshal for the Houston Rodeo parade and gives flashbacks to the best tv show in Houston history.

via Houston Athletics

Houston Cougars football coach Tom Herman could probably run for mayor in a few years once UH alum Sylvester Turner’s term is up and win in a landslide. In the meantime, college football’s King of the Trill will serve as the marshal for the Downtown Rodeo Parade as part of the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

If you think it’s incongruous that someone with a grill from Paul Wall would turn around and lead the Houston Rodeo parade, then you don’t know Houston. Here’s our former mayor Annise Parker, the first openly lesbian mayor of a major us city, riding in a slab with swangaz in the Houston Art Car Parade a few years ago:

via Redditor 77009_

You can keep Austin “weird”… Houston will just keep being Houston. All of this gives me flashbacks of perhaps the greatest portrayal of Houston life in history, the documentary tv show, “Houston Knights”:

If television execs have any sense they’ll hop on the phone with Coach Herman and cast him on a remake of Houston Knights… filming only during the offseason of course!

More info on the parade

Sampson’s Second Season is One for Second Chances

Guard Galen Robinson Jr. (25) talks with coach Sampson. via David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

More than halfway though the regular season, the Houston Cougars basketball team has finally undergone its most accurate litmus test. After playing a schedule of fairly manageable competition early, Kelvin Sampson’s squad was finally put up against a sustained barrage of formidable opponents. After losing these three games against the American Athletic Conference’s best, the Cougars were brought back down to earth after an impressive 13-2 start to the season.

On Saturday, January 23rd, the Cougars had a chance to reestablish some of the magic they had created early in the season, and put their three game losing streak behind them, when they took on the USF Bulls. I attended the game, and there did seem to be a fair amount of hope in Hofheinz Pavilion, at least in the stands. It was a fairly well attended game, at least compared to the dismal crowds the team drew in the first few games of the season.

While there had been an increased interest after Houston took down LSU and the projected number one overall pick, Ben Simmons, the Cougars recent dropping of three in a row has dampened some spirits. This crowd was one interested in redemption, in second chances. This crowd was expecting a win, as the Cougars had already defeated the 3-17 Bulls team that was winless in the conference in Tampa. Also, USF forward Chris Perry had been suspended prior to the game, and would not play. In addition to that, our leading scorer, Rob Gray Jr, who was held out of the SMU game due to basketball reasons, would be back. So I, along with the throng of Cougar supporters at Hofheinz, was cautiously optimistic.

This optimism, at least in the game against the Bulls, stemmed from Houston having played fairly well against teams with superior talents. And while they didn’t get any wins from the tough three game stretch, there were flashes of good basketball. At Cincinnati, the Cougars were down by only three with five minutes remaining in the game. Against UConn at home, they lead the Huskies by eight in the second half. And at SMU, who was then unbeaten, the game was tied with two minutes left.

This game, however, didn’t get off to a good start. While there were flashes of positivity early on, and a mostly equal score, after twelve minutes the Cougars were down by eight. Shots weren’t going down. And the only silver lining of the first half, which ended with the Cougars trailing by ten, was the impressive play from fan favorite Sophomore walk on Wes VanBeck, who was the leading Cougar scorer with six first half points. His presence, however, was mostly out of necessity, though, because our primary contributors were underperforming. Rob Gray Jr was 0-4 shooting with 0 points and the entire team was shooting a paltry 26.9% and an abysmal 1-11 from three.

While the Cougars shot better statistically in the second half, at 46.7%, and 25% from three, the optimism had been largely whittled away. The Bulls, at one point, had a 16-point lead. Houston got outrebounded 43-27, largely dominated by the post presence of Ruben Guerrero and Jaleel Cousins. And while Houston pulled within four in the last few minutes of the game, the Bulls eventually pulled away and won by nine. The final score was 71-62.

The first three games of the losing streak, which had now increased to four, could be chalked up to a Cougar team full of transfers that is still gelling. The loss to USF, though, is entirely another beast. Without Chris Perry, who had led his team with 19 points and 10 rebounds in the prior game against Houston, the Cougars should have easily defeated the three win team. Instead, they got dominated.

Maybe the Cougars had had some of their confidence eroded in the previous three loses. Or maybe they just had a bad game at a bad time. This team, however, which has fallen to eighth in the conference, has previously shown that they can win in both close game and in blow out fashion against good competition. The Cougars beat LSU in overtime, 105-98 in their first real test of the season, where they did much to eliminate Ben Simmons from dominating the game. And they beat Temple in Philadelphia, 77-50, who went on to spoil SMU’s potential bid at an unbeaten season.

While the Cougars have definitely fallen into a slump, there is still hope to at least end the season strong and show continued progress. With six losses already, and the AAC only sending two schools to the NCAA tournament last year, the Cougars greatest chance would be winning their Conference Championship tournament. This, of course, will be extraordinarily difficult. But if the Cougars can play like they did against Temple, it could be possible.

No matter the result of the season, though, Cougar fans should support this team until the end, as it could propel the Cougars, who have already matched their win total from last season, into a successful 2016-2017. They have shown significant progress with the many transfers that Kelvin Sampson brought in finally getting play time. The Cougars are a team of second chances, for many of the players, and even their coach.

I recently read an article claiming that SMU should be America’s team. It argued that SMU has only seven scholarship athletes and the handling of the their postseason ban was unfair to their seniors, including Mustang standout Nic Moore, who weren’t given time adequate time to transfer. Due to this, the Larry Brown led team, one that had a legitimate chance at a deep run into March Madness, now has only an undefeated season to fight for. The author claimed that we should support them because of this. And while I’m not saying we shouldn’t, or that they shouldn’t be America’s team, necessarily, I am saying that the University of Houston Cougars could also fill this role, though in a different capacity.

Beyond the fact that SMU’s attempt at attaining a perfect season is now over, after their loss to Temple on Sunday, Houston’s story may be even more compelling. It is a team full of individuals looking for a second chance. Even Sampson, who was hired to rebuild the program, came for a chance to restore his reputation and create a team in his image.

Sampson had coached Washington State, Oklahoma, and Indiana to many NCAA Tournament appearances. His rise to the top of college basketball, however, culminated in his resignation from Indiana in 2008, under NCAA investigations of improper phone calls to recruits linked to his time at Oklahoma and Indiana. He was given a five-year show clause, which essentially rendered him unhireable at the collegiate level for half a decade. So he spent six years in the NBA, most recently as an assistant for the Houston Rockets. He came to the University of Houston once this clause had expired. He returned to college basketball in the city he was living in, and given a change to coach with his son, Kellen Sampson, who he had coached at Oklahoma.

When asked about what intrigued him about the Houston job in the College Hoops Today Podcast with Jon Rothstein, Sampson claimed that he “needed a program that he could rebuild… a school that needed some work… [Houston] is the perfect place for me. Because there is a lot of work to do here…” He continued to say, “I’ve always been an underdog type person…I’ve got some guys on my team now that needed somebody to believe in them.”

Sampson has assembled a team of transfers also yearning for a second chance, or at least a change of scenery.

The embodiment of this second chance program is forward, Devonta Pollard. A five star recruit out of high school, he played his freshman year at the University of Alabama before being arrested in connection with a kidnapping that his mother had committed. Pollard was largely a pawn in this crime. After the arrest, he transferred to East Mississippi Community College. He eventually testified against his mother, who is now in jail, serving a 25-year sentence. After this ordeal, he transferred to Houston while still on probation. He has since completed it and emerged as one of the leaders of the Cougars in his second season playing in Houston.

Damyean Dotson, a local Yates product, had played two years at Oregon before transferring to Houston. Ronnie Johnson transferred from Purdue. Kyle Meyer, Xavier Dupree, Rob Gray Jr all transferred from junior colleges. Kelvin Sampson brought these players to Houston, selling them on second chances, and an opportunity to rebuild the Houston program.

While Pollard did play in 2014-2015, most of Sampson’s other transfers only began playing this year. After a 13-19 first season for Sampson, one where he didn’t have much depth to work with, the Cougars have already matched this win total with a deep bench brought about by the transfers who can finally play. There is reason to be optimistic in Houston, despite the four game losing streak they are currently on in Sampson’s second year.

The head coach and his players are rebuilding the Houston program while simultaneously rebuilding their basketball careers. Houston provided all of them with a second chance. Isn’t that what America, at its best, does? Isn’t the United States where immigrants from around the world flock to for opportunity and a second chance? Well, the Houston Cougars are a nice embodiment of the American spirit.

Maybe the University of Houston should be America’s team, the squad we all pull for, because it reflects our greatest ideals, a microcosm of what is great about this country.

The Houston Cougars are a team of second chances right now. The players and coaches are rebuilding a program that hasn’t been a powerhouse since the mid 80s. Despite their four game losing streak, and the most recent loss being a bad one, the Cougars have a second chance to salvage their season and make something great out of it. I believe in Kelvin Sampson. I believe in this team. I think you should, too.